This week, we virtually traveled to the food and wine heartland of South Africa, Franschhoek. Franschhoek is a small town located in the Western Cape Province and is known for its picturesque countryside scenery and french heritage. In fact, its name ‘Franschhoek’ is Afrikaans for “French Corner”, and it was amidst these beautiful mountain slopes that the Huguenots came to settle more than 300 years ago.
Today, Franschhoek is a reflection of this french influence and has picked up the nickname “Little France.” While much of our time was spent devouring wine, we also got a glimpse into the town’s history and culture, gorgeous countryside, 100-year old cars, learned how to make artisanal chocolates and cheese, and tried our hand at fly fishing!
Here’s a recap of our 36-hour virtual visit.
36 Hours in Franschhoek
9:00 AM: See the Best View of Franschhoek Valley
Sometimes it’s hard to take a break from our busy schedule to enjoy all that mother nature has to offer. So this morning, we decided to take a trip to Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, a UNESCO declared Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserves.
From two hour trails to full-day trails, there are many scenic routes for visitors to choose from. Don’t forget to stop and notice the great variety of plant species on your hike!
11.00 AM: Artisanal Chocolate Tasting
For a quick pick-me-up, we headed to DeVilliers Chocolates where we sampled pure, milk chocolate products from chocolate and confections to cakes and ice cream.
Here, we were surprised to learn that Africa makes less than one percent of the world’s chocolate products yet, it produces more than 70% of the world’s cocoa beans! With that in mind, it was pretty cool to sample chocolates at DeVilliers Chocolates, where their chocolates were crafted in Africa by Africans.
1:00 PM: An Authentic Melting Pot of Culinary Flavors
For lunch, we decided on Pierneef à La Motte, a beautiful garden terrace restaurant that features a unique taste of the Cape. All their dishes are farm fresh and inspired by seasonal fruits and vegetables. Some of our favorites were the family-style platters of bread, spreads, kaiings (crisp mutton ribs), and curried green beans.
2:00 PM: Visit a 70-Year-Old Monument Commemorating the French Settlers
Located in the heart of Franschhoek is the Huguenot Monument that is surrounded by a beautiful stretch of greenery. This ancient monument celebrates the Huguenots, the French settlers who brought a great deal of culture to the Cape Colony.
As you make your way through the lawns, pop into the Huguenot Memorial Museum to see the origins and tools of Franschhoek wine-making and other interesting facts about the culture of the town!
4:00 PM: 220+ Antique Vehicles Collection
Whether you’re an automobile enthusiast or not, the Franschhoek Motor Museum is worth a visit. Located on the gorgeous L’ormarins Wine Estate, the beauty surrounding the museum is one you won’t find anywhere else.
From the 1898 Beeston Motor Tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar, you’ll be able to see a collection of vehicles, some dating back one hundred years!
Also see if you can spot any unique cars on the streets, as the collection of cars are regularly driven around town to maintain their proper condition.
5:00 PM: Evening Drive Along the Franschhoek Pass
If you’re feeling inspired after the vehicle museum, take a drive along one of the oldest passes in South Africa. Not only is Franschhoek Pass a windy, scenic getaway, it also offers endless photo-ops along the entire drive.
The drive is located at R45 between Franschhoek and VillliersDorp.
7:00 PM: Drinks at Franschhoek’s Only English Pub
After a day of scenic views, we decided to unwind at the Elephante & Barrel Village Pub located just off Huguenot Street. This pub is a spot that caters to everyone. From thirty plus local and imported beers, a wide selection of traditional pub food, live music, and a great atmosphere, it’s a guaranteed fun time.
10.00 AM: It’s Never Too Early For a Glass of Wine!
With more than 40 extraordinary wine cellars, Franschhoek is one of the most beautiful wine valleys in the world. Its prominent wine culture stems from its 300-year French heritage and is manifested in its award-winning restaurants and wineries.
To take advantage of this cultural aspect of Franschhoek, we started day 2 by hopping on the Wine Tram!
For three hours, the wine tram takes you to 22 different wine estates where you can wine taste, picnic, and take in breathtaking views of the Wemmershoek mountains.
1.30 PM: See the Works of South Africa’s Most Famous Potters
Visit the ceramic gallery in Franschhoek to see some of South Africa’s most prized pottery on display. Of the potters, the most notable is David Walters who specializes in studio ceramics and domestic ware and is known to have created many of the dinnerware for prominent restaurants.
3.00 PM: Say Cheese!
For an unusual experience, head to Dalewood Farm, a local Cheesery, to see how artisanal handcrafted cheeses are made. While you’re there, you’ll be able to see the entire process of cheese production, including the cows that make the milk.
We recommend that you stock up on some of their Brie and Camembert because this cheesery has been internationally recognized for making the third Best Cheese in the World!
5.00 PM: Gone Fly Fishing
For our evening activity, we headed to La Ferme to go fly fishing. Upon arrival, we were presented with a variety of dams and streams to choose from where we could fish. Make sure to book in advance if you are a beginner because they offer fishing lessons as well!
7.00 PM: See Why Franschhoek Is Known as the Culinary Capital of the Cape
For our last meal in Franschhoek, we decided on Le Coin Francais, a french-inspired restaurant that is recognized for embodying the valley’s heritage in its dishes. With the “go big, or go home” mentality, we went for the tasting menu and were blown away by the details of each dish and the impeccable service.
The Ultimate Place to Wine and Dine
Franschhoek may be the gourmet capital of the country, but it evidently offers a lot more than great wine and food. Scenic lookouts, Cape Dutch heritage, and a strong French influence in all aspects of life… there’s something for everyone here!
No wonder Franschhoek is increasingly attracting foreign investments for luxury hospitality ventures. Analjit Singh’s Leeu Collection (meaning “lion” in both Afrikaans and Sanskrit) is one such example, where the Indian businessman set out to turn farms into fairyland in South Africa. By his own admission, Franschhoek is where he felt “a deep sense of belonging, of energy, and of place”. He has since come to be known (both locally and internationally) as the “Lion of Franschhoek” for his staggering investments and unbridled love for this beautiful town, and we couldn’t agree more with his description!
How to get there
One of the most popular ways to get to Franschhoek is by flying into the Cape Town International airport. From there you can take the train, bus or hire a car to get from Cape Town to Franschhoek.
Where to stay
Franschhoek offers many hotel options to choose from. Options range from the budget-friendly Van Wijk Street Guest Rooms to midrange selections like Ashbourne House and Stony Brook Cottages. For those who wish to splurge, stay at Le Petit Manoir, Kruger House Luxury Suites, or the Leeu Collection.
When to go
The best time to visit Franschhoek is between September and February, which is their Spring and Summer seasons. Since the sun sets late around these months, you’ll have more time to grasp in the beautiful scenery.
South Africa has various tourist restrictions ranging from no visa requirements for up to 30 days to 90 days for certain nationalities. We recommend that you head to their website to see if you need a visa.
The official currency of South Africa is the Rand.
The languages that are most commonly spoken in Franschhoek are Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English.
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